Archive for July, 2007

Inspection of Hive #1

July 15, 2007

With the things that have gone on lately, I have focused on hive #2. It has been a couple of weeks at least since I checked out hive #1 at all, so this time I did a full inspection. I didn’t touch hive #2 at all, so hopefully they didn’t make any more mess of their comb.

Both hives have a good number of bees at their entrance. There are some washboarding, and a good number coming and going. I watched bees coming into both hives with pollen. The incoming bees do seem to have to push by bees to get in , but thats as big as I made the entrance. Hopefully its not causing them any difficulty.

When I opened up hive #1, they were still at 8 combs. Comb #8 is not too much larger than what I had seen before, but the remaining combs are completely filled out. The filled out combs make a very nice isosceles trapezoid. I didn’t have any combs attached at all on the sides or bottom, and none across multiple top-bars (like hive #2 had). There are some whose comb is not exactly centered on the top-bar, but at least they are not across multiple top-bars. Here are combs 8, 7, 6, and 5 (first picture) and 4, 3, and 2 (second picture).

Did you notice the lack of a picture of comb #1? There’s a reason for that. I’ll get to that later.

There are lots of bees, but I think that the queen has slowed laying (notice comb #6 is pretty empty). That would make some sense too, because I don’t think there is too much nectar available right now (and I haven’t been feeding them). You may also notice that there is very little if any nectar stored, and I didn’t see any capped nectar. Since we are likely in a dearth right now (and they lack supplies), I went ahead and gave some sugar syrup to both hives.

I find it interesting to see the progression of the top-bars, and what the bees are doing where. Toward the very back of the hive they have new comb and nectar (if they have any :p ). They keep their brood in front of that, and seem to keep their pollen stors at the very front of the hive. I ran into the queen (still the original one – no supersedure yet).

Moving forward, you see brood combs. Comb 6 had little capped brood, but had a patch of larva. I didn’t get picture of comb 5, but I did get them of 4, 3, and 2. Notice that 4 and 3 both have caped brood with some younger larva. You can see that in comb 3, you start to see some pollen packed into some of the cells. Once you get to comb 2, there is lots of stored. Here are combs 6, 4, 3, and 2.

Comb #1 was a different story. Like the others it was not attached to the sides, but it was curved toward the from of the hive. The bees had then attached it to the front wall of the hive. When I tried to remove it, the comb ripped. It was an interesting comb. On the back side, it had mostly pollen with some capped brood. The front side (the side that was attached to the front of the hive) was close enough to the front that it didn’t really have cells on the side that was bent forward.

This side of the comb shown here is what was surface directly facing the entrance of the hive. I kind of wonder if the bees didn’t want to have cells facing out the entrance and therefor had this facing it. It kind of ticked off the bees when I picked up the fallen comb (it was covered with bees). For the first time, I got a number of stings on my gloves. None of the stings made it through the gloves, but they tried. After I cleaned out the dropped comb, I closed up the hive.

I guess the one plus of the problem with comb #1 was that I had the chance to check for Varroa mites. The mites breed inside the cells of capped brood where they feed on the developing bee. Since there were some capped brood among the pollen in the part of comb #1 that gave way, I could open the cells and check for mites. This would give me some idea of the size of the current mite problem in the hive. I pulled out 25 pupa. To my surprise, I did not find a single mite. Some of the pupa had what looked almost like very fine sawdust on them though. I think it might be bits of the capping material, but I am not sure. It actually looks a lot like the crap that I found on the bottom board of the hive before I removes it. I plan on posting a picture on BeeSource to see if it means anything. I took a picture of the one with the most stuff on it. I think this particular one had actually already bee uncapped by the bees before I checked the comb (there were a few that had been uncapped, probably to be torn out for some reason).

Though I didn’t see any mites, while checking out the comb however I did spot a couple of larva that I thought might be small hive beetle, but the could also be wax moth, I’m not sure. The hive is still pretty strong, and I very rarely see adult beetles (only saw one today – I smashed it), so I was a little surprised to see the larva. I haven’t seen any signs of wax moths.  I’ll have to keep an eye on it to make sure they don’t become a problem. Here is what it looked like right before it was smashed.

Overall, the hive seemed to be doing well. It does need stores, so I did start feeding sugar syrup again. Hopefully we will have some good nectar flows before winter so they can build up store to hold them till spring.

July 7th Inspection

July 8, 2007

I went out to check on my hives yesterday, but forgot to take my camera along.  As I explained, hive #2 had a bit of a mess last week due to some comb that was attached to two top-bars and ended up collapsing.  I had left the comb behind the follower board for the bees to clean out (it had nectar in it).  I wanted to remove the collapsed comb, and check on their work to repair any of the other comb.

I only check on hive #2, but did watch bees at the entrance of both hives before starting.  Both hive have busy entrances, with lots of bees coming and going.  Both also had a good number of bees washboarding again.  I saw a good number of bees coming into both hive loaded with pollen.  Interestingly, hive #2 was bringing in only orange pollen while hive #1 was bringing in mostly pale yellow pollen (with an occasional bee with orange pollen).  I find it interesting that they seen to have found different pollen sources even though they are located right next to each other.

In hive #2, I removes the fallen comb from behind the follower board.  As I had hoped, they had cleaned it out of nectar.  Being good little builders though, they didn’t seem to want to leave it sitting loosely and had made it sturdy.  I had left the comb on top of a piece of plywood that I used to set the feeder on.  The bees attached all the comb together ands down to the plywood.  Its fascinating to look at, and reminds me of columns and buttresses in some type of cathedral.  It also smells wonderful (just like honey). 🙂


Just out of curiosity, I also measured the cell size.  They all seem to measure about 5.3 mm (5.3cm for 10 cells).  It as shame that this beautiful comb can’t be used by the bees, but I am sure they will replace it.

The bees had done some work repairing the combs that were still hanging.  They had reattached the lose combs, and were building more comb.  Nothing was attached to multiple top-bars, but I can also tell that its not all cleared up yet.  I’ll have to keep an eye on them to try and stop new problems before they get to big.

Swarm Intelligence

July 5, 2007

So far, I have tried to stick mainly to whats going on with my hive for postings here.  I though this was interesting and related enough to post something here.

I explained early on that one of the things that got me learning about bees (which eventually lead to me starting beekeeping) was reading a few articles about swarm intelligence (or swarm decision making, or agent based systems, etc. – it has lots of names).  It got me interested in learning more about these fascinating insects.  Today, while checking out Slashdot, I found a post about an article that looks like it is featured in the July issue of National Geographic Magazine (the article is also available online, and they also have some photos).  It discusses lots of systems from nature where large groups of individuals, with no leader can “organize” and make group decisions.  Some examples include schools of fish,  flocks of birds, and herds of caribou moving and avoiding predators, ants foraging and guarding their nests, and of course honeybees.  They also explain how people have tried to use these examples to help in designing and programing robots, make businesses more efficient/profitable, decrease your wait at the airport, and make Google’s search results better.  If I haven’t been clear enough, I suggest reading the article.  🙂

I just had to smile when they ended the article with this:

If you’re looking for a role model in a world of complexity, you could do worse than to imitate a bee.”

A Bit of a Mess

July 1, 2007

I went to check on the hives early this morning. I have been a little busy for a bit and haven’t done much with them. I found a little bit of a mess, and and added some too it.

I wouldn’t say it was a mistake because I don’t know what I would do differently, but this was the first time I felt a little bad when I finished with them.

The last time I had posted, both hives had 7 good combs, and hive #2 had just barely started on comb 8. Now in the last few times I have checked on them,hive #2 seems to be a bit stronger (based on the number of foragers coming and going). When I opened it up, they had started a small comb on top-bar 9, and worked a good bit on the comb on top-bar 8. The problem is that they are using slightly more than 1 1/4″ per comb (the top-bars are 1 1/4″ in the brood nest). Its not much, but enough that at comb 8, the comb started to be attached to the edge of top-bar 9. I’ve noticed this in both hives, but hive #2 is a little worse than hive #1. Maybe 1 3/8″ bars would work better. Here is ana example of where the comb on top-bar 7 was attached to top-bar 8 (on the right end).

When I removes the top-bar 8 here, it pulled on the comb of top-bar 7 (on the right end). I end up pushing the comb back in line and the bees will reattach it. Anyway, this time when I tried to remove top-bar 9, it started pulling on comb 8. The connections were more than just at one end. I cut the connections as best I could, but it still made a little mess. Here is comb 9 and 8. You can see how comb 8 got detached in a few places.

You can also see that the bees started comb 8 in two places, and then connected them. I think that added a little to the mess. I was actually impressed what the combs didn’t fail with as much detachment as there was. I straightened the comb as best I could. Unfortunately, gravity wasn’t done yet. 😦 After I had put it back in the hive and continued on with the inspection, I heard a “Thud…BBZZZZZ”. The smaller comb on the right side of top-bar 9 had collapsed. About half of the total comb had dropped to the floor of the hive. It only had nectar in it, but was too soft for me to try to tie to the top-bars or anything. I ended up moving it behind the follower board for the bees to clean up. I straightened up the remaining comb as best I could. I ended up adding a couple extra 1 1/2″ bars into the mix to try and correct the spacing of the combs. We will see how they clean up the mess.

I checked quickly on hive #1. Though they seem to have less foragers coming and going, they still seem to be doing fine. They haven’t built as much comb as hive #2, but their close.  They haven’t started on top-bar 9, but have added a nice sized comb to top-bar 8.  Even better, they haven’t made too much of a mess.  I guess they may now have more comb than hive #2 after their collapse.

All in all, both hives seem to still be building up.  There are a good number of foragers coming and going (a few more in hive #2, but too many more).  I also see bees coming into each hive with full loads of pollen.  I assume they are finding some nectar too (not sure exactly what though, basswood maybe?)